Ain’t No Stopping Them Now

TONY VANETTI: An unprecedented week for UofL, bad news for the basketball program, really proud of how the team rallied and won last Saturday after the Chris Jones situation.

MATT JONES: Well it was a good win for them. I mean I wouldn’t act like it’s heroic but it was a good win. Those two games against Georgia Tech and Florida State, had they lost either one of them, I think the season would have probably been over. So they kept it going and now they’ve got two big ones coming up. But those were good victories and the team may be more likable – not better – but at least maybe more likable for the average fan.

VANETTI: Yeah, I mean you can’t fault the rest of the players for something that another player did. Again, I can’t ever remember something of this magnitude happening to the basketball program. Everyone had a shocked feeling for most of the week. After leaving work from doing the shows last week it was almost like you had to take a shower when you got home, and no one liked it. No one liked the feeling.

Photo by Donna Gray | Contributing Photographer.

Photo by Donna Gray | Contributing Photographer.

In any case, Kentucky looks pretty darn good. They’re rounding things up for an undefeated regular season, which hasn’t happened since what year, Matt?

JONES: Well they had one in 1954, but I don’t know. I mean for Kentucky, they could still find a way to lose a game, but really the best part is that they are going into March and the NCAA tournament playing their best basketball of the year so far. And that’s really what you really want to see. They had a little bit of a swoon in late January, early February but they picked it up and look really, really good. That Arkansas game on Saturday really impressed me.

VANETTI: Well it impressed a lot of people because they thought that was going to be the chance where somebody could really take a shot at ending Kentucky’s near perfect season. I think the difference is the demeanor of the team changes when Willie Cauley-Stein comes on. He’s grown the beard, he’s got the neck tattoo, he’s got the scowl. When he is nasty the rest of the team is nasty right along with him. But he’s the most important player by far. When he’s playing well, Kentucky can’t be beat. When he’s not playing well, they have some vulnerability. So when he’s playing well and he’s energized, they’re almost unstoppable because they can come at you in so many different ways and score in so many different ways. I mean the game was over Saturday when he blocked that shot. When he blocked it and the guy fell down, the game was officially over right then. Now you were famously nervous during the championship runs. In 2012, you would actually leave your seat because you were so…well, you were freaking out, to say the least. I don’t see that in you this year.

JONES: Well it’s because nothing matters yet. I mean it’d be nice to be undefeated but that doesn’t matter. You know, I talked about this a lot on my show, I’m going to be terrified during the games because it’s one thing when you have a chance to win. It’s another thing when you’re the heavy favorite because it’s like you don’t want to see a team this good lose a single game. That just doesn’t seem fair. And so I think the Kentucky fans are going to be really nervous. I don’t know that this is going to be an enjoyable tournament for Kentucky fans.

VANETTI: Alright, the ACC has two title contenders and probably two Sweet Sixteen teams in North Carolina and Louisville. Not a lot of the teams are going to make it out of the SEC. There’s Arkansas but who else is going to make the tournament?

JONES: Yeah, I think for the SEC, it’s Kentucky and five teams that could make the Sweet Sixteen, or lose in the first round. I mean all those teams are the same: Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, they’re all the same. It would not shock me if they were all at the same game. It would shock me if they pull an upset in the second round and went to the Sweet Sixteen. I think in college basketball, there are seven teams that are really good: Kentucky’s the best, but then Duke, Virginia, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Arizona, and I’ll even throw in Villanova but barely. Those teams are all really good. The rest of the teams, flip a coin because who knows what happens.

VANETTI: We said it at the beginning of the year, Kentucky and Duke, I think when it’s all said and done, you’re probably still talking Kentucky and Duke, but Virginia is one that can scare you. But they choked last year. Will they do the same in the tournament, for a second year?

JONES: Don’t overlook Wisconsin, I’m telling you. Don’t overlook Wisconsin. You’ve got to remember, they’ve been playing the last month and a half without their best guard. So I say don’t overlook them. And listen: enjoy March Tony. It’s going to be a blue March. Kentucky everywhere.

VANETTI: Uh, I’m going to cheer for my underdog Louisville Cardinals as they move through the tournament. We’ll see you in the Sweet Sixteen and revenge is on our mind.